There are only four National Register properties for sale in the Piedmont right now (that I know of, at least, plus one under contract), but they represent a wide variety, particularly in size and price. There’s the small and unforgettable Villa Fortuna in Reidsville, just 1,500 square feet and $99,900 (needs some work). And then there’s Boxwood Lodge in Davie County, 9,300 square feet and $3.45 million (needs nothing but your $3.45 million).
Boxwood was built in 1934 and has been a B&B since 1995. The listing says a $5 million renovation was completed in 2007. The house is set on 51 mostly wooded acres near the Yadkin River, It has eight bedrooms, six full bathrooms and two half-baths in 9,304 square feet (according to county records). That comes to a remarkable $371 per square foot. But, then, it’s a remarkable house.
Boxwood was designed by Delano and Aldrich, one of the nation’s most prominent architectural firms of the period. “The great fortunes of America’s Gilded Age, built up by legendary families such as the Astors, Vanderbilts, and the Whitneys, helped pay for some incredibly fancy homes,” Curbed says. William Adams Delano and Chester Holmes Aldrich designed many of them, “putting their mark on early 20th century ideas of luxury.”
“The Delano & Aldrich partnership owes much of its success to their refined take on classical styles, which moved beyond the Beaux Arts trend popularized at around the turn of the century and instead elevated detailed Neo-Georgian and Neo-Federal designs.” Boxwood is their only known work in North Carolina.
The property’s 1995 nomination for the National Register calls the house “an expansive two-story brick Colonial Revival-style building: the common-bond brickwork, rising from a soldier-course water table, has always been painted white and the window sash and blinds are painted a starkly contrasting black. The three main blocks of the house have gable roofs covered with Buckingham (Virginia) slate. …
“Like much of Delano & Aldrich’s work, the house is marked by a handsome symmetry and deft proportioning: there is a spareness in its elevations which is also characteristic of the firm’s work and the tenor of the Depression era in which it was built.”
It is worth noting that the house was built during the Depression, giving jobs to an untold number of Davie County carpenters, brick masons and other workers during the nation’s darkest economic time.
“The architectural significance of Boxwood Lodge rests on two primary considerations: the significance of the house as an important example of interwar-period country house architecture in North Carolina and one of a small number of handsome houses designed for North Carolina clients by nationally or regionally-known architects and architectural firms; and the significance of Boxwood Lodge — the house, its outbuildings, and its gardens and residual grounds as an important example of rural hunting and agricultural estates developed in North Carolina in the opening decades of the twentieth century,” the National Register nomination says.
The house has just about everything you could ask for in a 1930s mansion, right down to the concealed door from the library to the living room and the walk-in safe in the basement. “The interior of Boxwood Lodge is well-detailed but not elaborately finished: from documentary photographs it is clear that the richness of the furnishings and the window hangings were the principal features of the interior decoration,” the nomination says. “That said, however, Delano and Aldrich provided a program of interior finish that was symmetrical in its arrangement and well-crafted.”
The property also includes substantial gardens, a 1932 log cabin (two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a great room with a stone fireplace), a barn dating to the 1910s and a pond.
Boxwood’s address is 132 Becktown Road in southern Davie County, just off U.S. 601 south of Mocksville, about halfway to Salisbury. It’s an hour or so from Winston-Salem, Greensboro and Charlotte.
William and Margaret Craig
The mansion and 51-acre estate are what remain of a 1,500-acre hunting retreat developed from 1911 to 1931 by William Rabb Craig (1870-1931), a New York cotton and sugar broker who must have been colossally rich. Early on, he built a hunting lodge and ultimately bought more than 30 pieces of land to create his estate. Craig and his wife, Margaret Eason Cunningham Craig (1889-1963), would travel in their private railroad car from New York to Salisbury, where, undoubtedly, they were met by a chauffeur. Although he was only a part-time resident, Mr. Craig became engaged in local matters, particularly the good-roads movement and schools, which he supported with both money and advocacy. On a visit to Boxwood in October 1931, he suddenly became ill and died. He was buried in his native Mississippi.
For her part, Mrs. Craig might have been less a rustic-hunting-lodge person than an elegant-mansion person. By 1934 she had removed her late husband’s lodge and built the current mansion where it stood. “Enamored of the society and landscape of the Piedmont, Mrs. Craig decided to build a large country house here which would eventually replace a sprawling apartment at 555 Park Avenue in New York as her principal residence,” the NRHP nomination says. For 29 years, “it was the scene of entertainments which have remained well-known for their lavishness and her generous hospitality.” (As perhaps the Piedmont’s premier hostesses of their overlapping eras, she and the Kivette sisters from Gibsonville would have had much to talk about, but, sadly, it doesn’t appear they knew each other.)
For the rest of their lives, Mrs. Craig and her mother lived at Boxwood (although for years Mrs. Craig kept a residence at the Plaza Hotel in New York as her legal address). Mrs. Craig continued the farming operations her husband had started, which included cattle, chickens and cotton, mostly grown beyond the boundaries of the current property.
She outlived Mr. Craig by 32 years, remarrying in 1943 (lawyer Walter Henderson Woodson Sr. of Salisbury, a widower and longtime friend). Her will provided for the property to be sold for the benefit of the Margaret C. Woodson Foundation. (It still exists, funding good works in education and human services, with a particular focus on Davidson College, Mary Baldwin College and Barium Springs Children’s Home.) The 51 acres with the house ultimately were bought by Roy Hoffner (1937-1993). Mrs. Craig had been his legal guardian when he was a child, and she left him sufficiently well off that he could buy the mansion in which he grew up. After his death, his widow opened a B&B at the lodge in 1995. She sold it to the current owners in 2002. Although the 51 acres had been divided into nine parcels for sale, the buyers wanted to keep the estate together and bought them all.
Today, after the $5 million renovation, the interior is posh and stately. Click here to see it decked out as a wedding venue. For a detailed description of the house and its history, read the National Register nomination.